Sometime late Sunday night or early Monday morning, my bike was stolen from outside my apartment on Washington St. It was the first night I had kept it outside, but I figured it was safe locked on a bike rack on a very busy street. I’ve owned the bike for several years, and to this day, I’d never considered getting bike insurance. Beyond the bike’s cost, it has a lot of value to me since I use it for commuting to the PATH during the weeks and training for a triathlon in the coming months. While unfortunate, it’s unlikely this sob story will matter to a prospective insurance company. In all business lines, insurers are careful to separate the good risks from the bad ones, select the profitable customers and shun any adverse selections. Does the fact someone stole my bike make me an adverse selection? One could argue either way – Yes, because I was possibly negligent and careless in my behavior, i.e. leaving my bike outside; No, because the odds of a thief coming along again and selecting mine are slim (plus, I will now use the bike-lock equivalent of The Club to prevent another burglary).
I commend Mayor Zimmer for the work she’s done in making Hoboken a more bike-friendly town and encouraging residents to consider biking as a preferred method of transportation. I think her motives are genuine and I truly hope this is a trend that catches on. Onto my proposal: as a vocal bike enthusiast and someone who had her own bike stolen in September 2009, I think it makes sense to provide a certain degree of protection and security to people who currently ride bikes in Hoboken.
I am proposing a public-private partnership with the City of Hoboken to insure against bike theft. I believe this measure will encourage ridership and substantially benefit all parties involved. I think most riders underestimate bike insurance and most insurance companies overlook it. My idea is to allow bikers to buy insurance policies from the city of Hoboken, who, partnered with private capital from willing participants, will insure bicycles from theft in exchange for a small premium paid by the rider. I am intrigued by this idea because I believe it adds value for all participants: for the City, the premiums it collects can be a very stable and reliable source of revenue in a time of falling tax revenues and political drama. For those private investors who partner with Hoboken, they would match the amount of capital Hoboken is willing to allocate towards this program and share in the risk and reward of increased bike ridership in our town. And finally, for bike riders, they have a highly motivated and stable source of protection against burglary, one that would not discriminate against potential adverse selections. I urge readers to at least consider this proposal. I have only outlined the basic premise, but I would love to elaborate. What do you have to lose (besides maybe your bike)?